Posted: 12 July 2013

Lunch time: New food plan backs calls for more free school meals

The School Food Plan was published today. Written by independent advisors, the plan was commissioned by the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, to look into a broad range of issues from increasing the take up of school food to ensuring all children can access good food in schools.

The plan contains fantastic news: our Fair and Square campaign, which calls for free school meals for all children in poverty, has been influential and the plan recommends extending entitlement to free school meals to more students.

Reasons for this include recent evidence of more school children going hungry and increasing food poverty and the impact hunger can have on concentration, behaviour and educational attainment. The plan also highlights our analysis that 700,000 children growing up in low income working families are not entitled to free school meals.  

As a result, the plan calls on the government to extend free school meals to more children. Although the government has not agreed to this call for now, they have promised to re-examine the criteria for free school meal entitlement and investigate the case for extending it. 

This is a great step forward.

Now is the time to act

Our Fair and Square campaign has focused on the unique opportunity presented by the introduction of the new benefit system, Universal Credit. 

This new system, to be introduced from autumn, means that the criteria determining who gets free school meals will change, so this is a perfect time to develop a better way of assessing families' eligibility for free school meals. 

Fair and Square calls on the government to extend entitlement to all children in families that receive Universal Credit. This will ensure that all children in poverty can get free school meals.

Next steps

The government will launch a consultation soon on their approach to incorporating free school meals under Universal Credit. 

Now that their independent advisors recommend extending free school meal entitlement, this is the time to act to ensure that these children who need free school meals no longer miss out. 

Thanks to all those who have supported our campaign so far – it is down to you that we have seen positive progress today. Now we need the government to act on the recommendations – email your MP now and tell them how important this is.

By Laura Rodrigues - Policy team

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